Medical professionals assessing a patient’s level of alcohol usage may be mislead by differing terminology to define drunk or state of inebriation.
Medical professionals who are trying to ascertain the level of a patient’s alcohol use or abuse may be misled by differences in language and terminology, which varies between social groups and by gender. It is common for drinkers to mislead their doctor about how much they drink by using confusing language. Alcoholics may mislead doctors intentionally, but there may misunderstandings between doctor and patient because of differences in definitions of alcohol usage.
University of Missouri Study
The University of Missouri has issued a press release reporting on research which will be published in the Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, currently available at Early View.
Alcohol’s effects described by drinkers can be very different from the terminology used by alcohol researchers, limiting the researchers’ understanding of self-reported alcohol use. The report states that new findings show that researchers could benefit by tapping into the wide spectrum of terms that drinkers may use to describe levels of intoxication. Terms also vary by gender, so researchers should study gender differences in reporting as well.
Researchers may ask how often a subject drinks to intoxication. Intoxication is perceived differently by different people. Drunk is the oldest English term to describe intoxication, but the word is used to describe varied levels of drunkenness. Drunk may reflect a level of intoxication anywhere between moderate to heavy intoxication.
According to Ash Levitt, a graduate student in the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University ofMissouri and the corresponding author of the study, “Humans have developed a rich and diverse vocabulary of intoxication-related slang to describe the subjective states that are experienced while drinking.”
Levitt went on to state that men tend to use heavy intoxication words more than woman. Men are more likely to describe a drunken state as hammered or wasted. Women may be more likely to call themselves tipsy, underplaying their drunkenness.
Women’s tendency to underplay their level of intoxication can have profound health and social implications. Women who perceive themselves as the relatively benign tipsy may actually be binge drinking.
Effective Communication Helps Assess Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol abuse is a complicated issue with implications that can affect a patient’s health, mortality, psychology and social circle. Medical professionals may be better able to access the level of a potential problem by learning to communicate effectively with patients. Effective communication includes developing listening skills and understanding the language and terminology being used by the patient.
Patients can also help to bridge the communication gap by asking the doctor or medical professional to define a term before answering a question. Although it is in the patient’s own best interest to answer questions honestly, it is up to the medical professional to ask questions about alcohol use in a clear, easy to understand manner.
Findings of the study can help clinicians improve assessments and interventions by helping medical professionals use understand the patient’s terminology.
The Merriam-Webster Online Thesaurus defines Drunk as being under the influence of alcohol.
Researchers at University of Missouri used a web based approach to survey university undergraduates from age 17 to 24 years olds. There were 73 males and 72 females in the study. The study was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
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